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Entrepreneurial Center fuels homegrown business in Birmingham

by Kathy Cammarata

December 2000

The Entrepreneurial Center of Birmingham, Ala., is proof that it takes little more than a spark of interest to ignite an entrepreneurial fire. Founded in 1986 as the Birmingham Business Assistance Network (BBAN), the incubator flickered through the late 1980s with only a handful of clients and the energy of its small staff.

Today, the incubator's flames are rising ever higher. In 1999, the center reached full occupancy with 30 client businesses and received 70 applications for services. Clients and graduates boasted a total of 252 full-time employees and sales of $51 million – up from $21 million in 1996, according to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, an alliance of businesses supporting economic growth in the state. The center has achieved such success that it can now set a goal of financial self-sufficiency.

This blaze of activity has not gone unnoticed. Two former clients, T.A. Lewis and Associates and SORRA, received NBIA's graduate of the year awards in 1993 and 1992, respectively, and recent graduate International Pharmacy Management (IPM) received NBIA's client of the year award in 1998. This year the program itself is in the spotlight, winning the NBIA 2000 Incubator of the Year Award in the mixed-use category. In addition, incubator President Susan Matlock garnered some of her own recognition after accepting the award at NBIA's 2000 conference. She was chosen from a pool of award-winning incubator managers to appear on MoneyHunt, a PBS television show that brings together entrepreneurs and top business experts. The show aired this fall.

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Keywords: practices, in-house loan and equity financing program

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